"They call me the mud king, yeah, this dirty heart is my crown".
Quoted from the brackish and dragging second track, "My Black Heart" from Matt Boroff's ghostly and gruff follow-up to his "Filling in the Cracks" EP, "Sweet Hand of Fate". Dusty, smoky and ethereal, "Sweet Hand of Fate" carries subliminal whiffs of Nick Cave, KYUSS, TOMAHAWK (the "Anonymous" period), Frank Zappa, THE CRAMPS and Ennio Morricone with its dank textures and coiling rattlesnake guitars. Not quite a metal recording, but carrying both direct and implied heaviness to counter the cajoling pistolero sweeps of Boroff's draining aural wastelands, "Sweet Hand of Fate" is the most captivating bit of escapism since Conny Ochs' "Black Happy", released earlier this year.
The American-born, Austria-retreated Boroff has fortified his long-spanning career playing in the company of BAD BRAINS, NIRVANA, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, CALEXICO and the SCREAMING TREES' Mark Lanegan, who drops by for a cameo on "Sweet Hand of Fate". At first dabbling in the noise rock sector then refining that experimental thirst in MATT BOROFF AND THE MIRRORS, Boroff next worked with scoring for his 2010 solo album "Reaching for Sparks" and the 2009 indie film "Little Fish, Strange Pond".
Matt Boroff engineers most of the instrumentation on "Sweet Hand of Fate" with guitars, bass, organs, pianos, programming and percussion along with his trafficked seething-aloof vocal palettes. He handles drums on a few songs with Little Konzett fielding the kit most of the ride. Brass sections from Bernhard Forti, Thomas Halfer and Mathias Nicolussi are planted with such delicate measures you have to keep your ears peeled for them, but they add flavorful dimensions to Boroff's elemental, mostly naked compositions. Boroff's intent is to imply, not create cinematic fragments and he pulls this off easily. "Sweet Hand of Fate" assuredly propagates the illusion you've stumbled across David Lynch's lost highways or Sergio's Leone's blood-soaked desert hell.
What's remarkable about Matt Boroff's stark minimalism on "Sweet Hand of Fate" is that every inch of this album seems tailored to encapsulating angst and dissemination into tempered, atmospheric capsules where boundaries are merely suggested, not necessarily confirmed. At times, "Sweet Hand of Fate" is loud and buzzing, if stripped down, i.e. "Going to the Hypnotist" and "My Black Heart". In other spots, the translucent, western airs floating over "Filling in the Cracks" and "Garbage Man" create lofting vortices that equally discomfiting as they are alluring.
On the opening number, "Lost", Boroff methodically works toward the brink with an eerie crawl and lingering guitar slides, which he moans along to before pressing hard on the distortion. He restrains his mounting yells to mere echoes behind the railing swills of his guitar and bass and the chorus then becomes a well-glued mantra. "Here in Limbo" rides on slow-trotting horseback through torturous sand and rock terrains on the heels of a barely-hastened tribal rhythm and successions of clean and static-filled guitar haunts. The groove is undeniable if arduous, and that makes Boroff's guitars glare like pestering demons tugging on the brims of exiled outlaws and provoking scorpions to consider taking a nip at horses' hooves.
"Up Up Up in Flames" then picks up the pace a bit with a nattering cowpunk jive in the flavor of THE CRAMPS, while the title track strides in as the conceivable prelude to a big shoot 'em up presided and won by Lee Van Cleef instead of Clint Eastwood. "Sweet Hand of Fate" the song builds off a primary acoustic shuffle as Boroff teases with increasing distortion and sweaty vocals. The dizzying slowness of "Garbage Man" prior to finds Boroff and Mark Lanegan in a subdued duet and they match the laggard glide of the track. The choruses of "Garbage Man" elevate into a more stirring antithesis to the forlorn feeling of regret and rectification spewed in the song's lyrics, hitting a climax with subtly-planted organs.
Boroff's themes for a purported imaginary western on "Sweet Hand of Fate" are infectious and consumptive in their austereness. Interrupting his primarily sooty feel with morose piano, string sweeps and echoing electronics on the hallucinogenic "X", there is dangling percussion to keep the song grounded as much as it seeks to free-float into the constellations of its dusky cadence.
"Sweet Hand of Fate" is thus frequently astonishing with its effective moderations and inveigling mood constructs.